In games that stress the "goodness" of the player character – regardless of the amount of evil henchmen that can be murdered – the developers may insist that non-hostile NPCs cannot be seriously harmed by the player. Sometimes this is purposeful and appropriate to the character, such as in Superman Returns, but often it is simply a choice to avoid the controversy of giving the player –especially children– such an option. In combative games, non-lethal takedowns or other methods are often employed against aggressive "good guys" such as police.
Depending on the mechanics of the game, this can manifest in different ways:
- Being specifically unable to target or fire upon NPCs (eg. a "don't shoot" reticule that actually disables shooting, or being unable to draw a weapon near innocents).
- Invincible NPCs that ignore/receive damage but do not die.
- Imposing a penalty when even attempting to harm a NPC.
- Ending or restarting the game if an innocent is shot or killed by the player (no exceptions).
- NPCs that jump out of the way of oncoming (player controlled) vehicles, often going comically large distances whilst jumping.
BioShock attempted to justify the player's inability to kill the Little Sisters by claiming that they had near-instantaneous health regeneration, which still doesn't explain why they do not react at all when shot.
In Scarface: The World Is Yours, Tony Montana retains the moral code he displayed in the original film. If players attempt to shoot a targeted civilian, Tony will mention his personal rule and will not fire his weapon. (However, players can still murder civilians while playing as other characters.)